Volume 43, Number 171,
October-December 2012
Russia: Strengths and Weaknesses
Arturo Bonilla
INTRODUCTION ( ...continuation )

Scientific research in the ussr was done to develop heavy industry, military industry, aviation and space exploration. Industrial branches dedicated to producing consumer goods for the population were given much less attention. All of this brought about a gap in the productive branches destined towards civil consumption, and although these grew in variety and quantity, there is evidence that these key sectors were not given enough attention in the Soviet domestic market. Soviet consumers worried more and more about the lack of attention and planning errors for these sectors.

Moreover, it is quite likely that excessive concentration and centralization of the social surplus gave rise to a lack of attention towards the development of various Soviet republics, which surely caused many republics to make the rapid, yet peaceful, decision to separate from what was up to that point the Soviet Union.

The disappearance of the Soviet Union was facilitated by the desire of large segments of the population who were convinced of the need to end internal repression imposed by Soviet governments and seek genuine free expression. For many Soviets, Socialist proposals were no longer valid.

It is relevant to point out the greatest disaster in the history of Soviet foreign policy, which also facilitated its economic, social and political weakening, was its prolonged military intervention in Afghanistan, with a cost of loss of life of 13,000 deaths and many more wounded, which resulted in the exit of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. This military intervention may have resulted in the biggest defeat for the then Soviet Union. Many observers have even characterized it as the Soviet version of what the usa suffered in Vietnam. The ambitions of the governing people were lost, both in terms of increasing influence abroad and dominating territory.

Under profound self-criticism, the problems cited here and many more revealed a situation of economic and social stagnation, together with an erosion of the moral and ideological values of the Soviet Union since the second half of the 1970s and 1980s. In this regard, Gloria Claudio Quiroga indicates that the economic situation in the Soviet Union was critical at the end of the 1980s, a reality that had begun decades before in the face of exhaustion of the growth model.3

This explained the evolution of Perestroika or economic restructuring and Glasnost or information transparency, in combination with political and democratic reforms driven by Mikhail Gorbachev and the pcus Central Committee.4 The purpose of this restructuring was to transition the Soviet economy to a new model of Socialist economics, with a mercantile foundation. Reformers and Conservatives faced off in this debate as representatives of power.

Although Hernández Laos writes: “Even (...) if it was successful during the transition, it is not entirely evident that the market system (...) was as efficient as textbooks claim,” he concludes by saying: “What is clear is that a market system increases economic inequalities in society, and it would seem that this is the cost imposed by history to reach an efficient system in terms of assigning resources that incentivize workers.”5 This path shows its profile, as the reforms applied developed programs recommended by the imf and WB, whose shock therapies drove economic liberalization, privatization of public property and monetary and financial stabilization. This was especially supported during Yeltsin’s presidency.6

This panorama led Sánchez Andrés to conclude that: “Starting at the beginning of the 1980s, the symptoms of crisis in the Soviet economy were clear (...) At the beginning of the 1990s, the combination (...) economic crisis (and) distortions introduced by reforms led to economic disintegration and the fall of the Soviet Union.”7 The gradual introduction of these reforms slowly redirected the Socialist economy towards a market economy, bringing together social and political reforms and ideological and cultural aspects.

3 Read Claudio Quiroga, Glora “The Economic Goodbye of the Soviet Union,” Anuario Jurídico y Económico Escurialense,
xxxix (2006) 443/462/issn: 1133-3677.


4 Gorbachev, Mikhail, Perestroika. New ideas for my country and the world, Second ed. Updated, Editorial Diana, México, 1991.

5 We recommend reading the analytical summary of the proposed economic principles of the Perestroika, from the book written by Abel Aganbegyan, entitled “Inside Perestroika. The Future of the Soviet Economy,” Harper and Row, Publisher, New York, 1990: main economic advisor to Gorbachev. Also read the article prepared by Hernández Laos, Enrique: “The Future of the Soviet Economy with the Perestroika” at http://148.206.53.230/revistasuam/izta- palapa/include/getdoc.php?id=1394&article=1431&mode=pdf .

6 Regarding this, he writes: “In October 1991, two months before the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin established a new program of radical economic reforms that principally sought two objectives: macroeconomic stabilization and economic restructuring, with the goal of going from being a centrally planned economy to a market economy.”

7 Sánchez Andrés, Antonio, “The Russian Economy: A Decade in Transition,” in the Journal cidob d ’Afers Internacionals,
number 59, 2002, pp. 53-72.


Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
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